Ideas: Breaking through the pandemic wall

Someone once said that adult life is just spending half of your time wondering if it’s too late to drink coffee and the other half wondering if it’s too early to drink alcohol. Well, that has definitely been true during the coronavirus pandemic. The early motivation that saw many of us turn to baking and get into fitness has been replaced by the trip to the fridge for the booze before slumping down on the sofa in a heap. Here, we hear some advice from North East business leaders about how to break through the pandemic wall

On March 23, it will be exactly one year since coronavirus started to fundamentally disrupt daily life in the UK.

That was the day the first national lockdown came into effect.

Boris Johnson came on the television and told the nation that each of us must stay at home and cease all unnecessary social contact.

Even the most pessimistic viewer would have struggled to believe this instruction would still be in place 12 months later.

But of course, COVID-19 never had a start and end date, it wasn’t interested in what our plans were to take 2020 and the new decade by storm.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have kept our jobs throughout the last year, it would be an understatement to say there have been some difficult days since last March.

The endemic uncertainty, the health anxiety, the social isolation, the increased workloads, the working from home, the disrupted sleep, the reaching for the booze in the evening and crawling towards the coffee in the morning – put all these things together and you’d struggle to find anyone who hasn’t found the pandemic stressful.

It’s really no surprise, therefore, that many of us are hitting what’s been described as the “pandemic wall”.

The pandemic wall is really just another word for burnout – a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.

In normal times, burnout typically affects the overworked, overambitious overachievers.

It is characterised by three main dimensions – exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Find one person who has lived and worked through coronavirus who hasn’t at some point felt one of these three things.

I don’t think that person exists.

As well as the stress, there’s the anxiety that comes with living through an extraordinary economic crisis – the constant worrying about our jobs, our businesses and our families 24/7, 365 days a year.

Many people have been waking up every morning under a cloud of uncertainty and lying awake at night wondering when the blue sky might appear.

It’s exhausted just reading that sentence.

What’s been really valuable during this difficult time is to hear advice from friends and colleagues on how they’ve been coping with the heavy psychological toll of COVID-19.

To know that you’re not alone if you’re suffering from burnout is the first step to doing something about it.

In the same vein, our friends in the North East business community have shared their words of support and advice on twitter, for days that are tougher than others.

Here is a snapshot of their wisdom.

“Never underestimate the power of going for a walk to bring perspective and a clear head to problems and anxieties.”
Louise Doyle, CEO at Mesma, @LouiseMesma

“Give yourself permission to feel pain and grief then when you’re ready, look for the wins in every day – an unexpected chat at the till, bird song, a belly laugh. Remember you bring something unique to the world. You matter.”
Sarah Waddington, managing director of Astute Work, @Mrs_Wadds

“You can’t do everything – stop trying to. Realise what maximum capacity is and accept it; otherwise, you just make yourself ill.”
Jamie Hardesty, head of communications at Sunderland Software City, @JamieHardesty

“Surround yourself with people that lift you up so when you have the tough days you have a solid tribe to get you through it.”
Sophie Milliken, managing director at SRS Recruitment, @SRS_Sophie

“Only dedicate time and effort to the stuff you can control. Let the rest go. Every problem has a solution. Some are just harder to find than others.”
Lisa Eaton, managing director of Unwritten Group, @LEaton35